By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
A pair of injured Mariners pitchers — James Paxton and Taijuan Walker — are scheduled to start throwing from a mound this weekend.
“I’m anxious to get back on a mound,” said Paxton, who suffered a strained left back (latissimus dorsi) muscle April 8 while pitching the home opener against the Los Angeles Angels. “Everything is feeling great. No pain back there. I’m feeling strong.”
Walker said much the same thing in his ongoing battle to overcome shoulder soreness, which surfaced early in spring training and returned last month after he made two minor-league rehab starts.
“I’ve been close a few times,” he said, “and then it’s been a step back. I think this time is it.”
The plan calls for Paxton to throw 25 pitches today from a mound. Barring problems, he will throw again prior to Sunday’s game. Walker is slotted to start throwing Sunday — about 20 pitches — from a mound.
“After that,” trainer Rick Griffin said, “they’ll probably go every other day for a couple of times. We usually like them to throw three bullpens. After they get through three bullpens, we’ll have them do a (simulated) game.”
After a simulated game, if no problems surface, the next step is usually a minor-league rehab assignment, which can last up to 30 days for pitchers. (It is limited to 20 days for non-pitchers)
Second baseman Robinson Cano, deciding his face needed a rest, arrived for Thursday’s game with a clean-shaven look.
“This is the longest I’ve had my beard,” he said. “I’ve had it for five or six months. So I wanted to let my face rest a little.”
Cano said that during his 13 years in the Yankees’ organization he typically grew a beard in the offseason, but shaved it prior to the season in accordance with franchise rules. The Mariners have no such restriction.
How long will Cano remain clean-shaven?
“I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe I’ll let it grow right away.”
Asked if a three-hit night might affect his thinking, he feigned outrage.
“Three hits? C’mon! I’ve got to hit a couple of homers (for it to matter),” he said. “Really, I just want to rest my face a little bit.”
On the clock
Prior to the game, Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon indicated the organization’s patience could be running thin on two struggling players who started Thursday: shortstop Brad Miller and outfielder Cole Gillespie.
Miller carried a .178 average into the game with just five hits in his previous 45 at-bats. He also had errors in two of his past three games.
“He’s not playing well right now, obviously,” McClendon said. “He needs to step it up. He knows that. We’re trying to get him relaxed and to just go out and play his game.”
Gillespie was 3-for-17 (.176) in seven games since his April 24 promotion from Class AAA Tacoma, where he hit .362 with five homers and 14 RBI in 16 games.
“His at-bats haven’t been great here,” McClendon said. “Obviously, you only get so many chances to go out and show what you can do. That’s just the way it is at this level. We want to make sure he gets that opportunity. It’s no different than the message I sent to everybody else. It’s simple. At some point, you’ve got to produce.”
Pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma entered Thursday’s game with a streak of 40? shutout innings against American League Central Division teams. … First baseman/outfielder Logan Morrison still isn’t able to run because of a strained right hamstring that surfaced prior to the April 14 game at Texas. … The Mariners entered Thursday’s game at 16-3 when they score at least four runs. They were 1-13 when scorer fewer than four runs.
It was 33 years ago Friday — May 9, 1981 — that Tom Paciorek hit a walk-off homer for the second straight game. This one was a three-run shot with two out in the ninth inning for a 6-5 victory over the New York Yankees at the Kingdome. It came against Ron Davis and occurred on Bat Night in front of a crowd of 51,903.
One night earlier, Paciorek led off the ninth with a homer off Rudy May that lifted the Mariners to a 3-2 victory over the Yankees.